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On physical and spiritual paralysis

A certain lawyer once came up to Christ and asked: which was the primary commandment in the law of God? The Lord said to him that first and foremost one must love God with one’s whole being, and one must love one’s neighbor, and that this constitutes the foundation of all law. However, having stated these two major commandments on loving God and one’s neighbor, and later adding to this His beatitudes, the Lord did not abolish the basic ten commandments of the Old Testament. The New Testament commandments were an expansion of the original ten commandments; they led to spiritual perfection those who had learned to keep the basic law of God, those who had acquired spiritual discipline.

In a series of Sunday Gospel readings the Church reminds us of the need to keep the principles of the law of God as expressed in the ten commandments, and shows us the consequences of transgressing these commandments. It is very important for us, who live in the modern world, to examine this matter, because it has a direct bearing upon us.

The first two commandments of Moses direct us to worship the one true God, shunning all other gods and idols. In one of the Sunday Gospel readings, in the story of the Gergesenes, we see the transgression of these very commandments. We see how the Gergesenes made an idol for themselves out of wealth and profit, out of the acquisition of material goods, and for the sake of their idol they even committed a sin, by keeping herds of swine which were forbidden by the law. Thus, by falling into sin, they alienated themselves from the true God, and not only alienated themselves, but even rejected Him.

After such a terrible picture, in the subsequent Gospel reading the Church shows us the consequences of sin. There we hear of the paralytic who was healed by the Lord. When Christ healed others – for example, the blind, the crippled, the maimed, – He healed them right away. This is because such physical defects were not specifically designed as a punishment for those people, but could have been given for the glory of God, for the glorification of the Merciful Healer-Christ, as we see in the case of the healing of the man who was born blind. However, when the paralytic was brought over to Christ, the Lord first said to him: “Your sins are forgiven,” and only then did He heal the physical paralysis. The Lord thus clearly indicated that physical paralysis is a direct consequence of sin, i.e. spiritual paralysis, that it is not simply an illness, but a direct consequence of inner paralysis of the soul. Moreover, this particular paralytic was not yet familiar with Christian teaching; thus, his sins occurred on the basis of his having transgressed the ten Old Testament commandments, which led him in turn to such a terrible consequence.

If we look at the world surrounding us today, we see that this entire world is full of both Gergesenes and paralytics. Currently the guiding principle of society is the transgression of the first two commandments. People have rejected the one true God and are worshipping the false gods that are found in Oriental religions, occultism, and even open Satanism, and are also worshipping different idols: be it atheistic science, or so-called progress, or those very same profit and gain and material goods, or living idols in the shape of rock-musicians, actors, and others who are possessed.

At the same time, as a result of such widespread and terrible sinfulness, paralysis has also increased in today’s world in the form of all kinds of horrible illnesses, which strike people most painfully and represent obvious punishment for sin. When the Lord healed the Gospel paralytic, the scribes and the Pharisees berated Him for first offering forgiveness for sins and then healing, not wishing to admit any connection between sin and illness, blindly rejecting sin as the cause of illness. Nowadays we see the same thing: contemporary leaders of society, just like those Pharisees and scribes, do everything in their power to lead people away from an understanding of the tie between terrible sins and terrible illnesses, and thus lead people away from an awareness of their own sinfulness and from repentance before God.

Dear brethren, let us seek salvation from all those horrors in the quiet fold of the Church, which, like a loving Mother, teaches us to live correctly by keeping all God’s commandments, and thus both protects us in this tempestuous life and leads us into eternal life with God the Father. Amen.

Father Rostislav Sheniloff

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